I've been thinking a lot lately about what I consider "American Proverbs" or our "at the ready" sayings, quick statements we throw at problems when the need arises. They may come from anywhere or any time, some of them may be Confucianism’s. We use them all the time, things like "the more the merrier", "no pain no gain", or "don't look a gift horse in the mouth". Now I use them as much as the next person but what's got me puzzling is that I’m just as likely to throw out a saying that means the opposite. "Two's a company, three's a crowd", "if it hurts don't do it/pain is a warning that something’s wrong", "if it seems too good to be true it probably it is". Now I know things differ from situation to situation, but why do we so often bring the same old sayings over and over to new problems and unique people?
Here’s the other problem. A lot of these sayings that we throw out are no longer ubiquitously and/or culturally relevant to us as a nation. Sure, there are some people who kill their own chicken dinners, but most of us have not chopped off the head of a chicken to find out exactly what it looks like when it runs around headless. Nor have we ever been given a gift horse and even if we’ve been around horses and looked them in the mouth, we wouldn’t know for what is was we were looking, not really. So why keep using them?
It seems these sayings may be keeping us from exploring problems, their solutions, and even the way we communicate with each other. We hear a person who has a problem or complaint and we quickly throw something at them so we feel we've done our bit. We have answers ready before we even have the problem. A comedian once said "A penny for your thoughts, but people put their two cents in. Somebody's making a penny." The comment is silly and ridiculous, but does he have a point?
Can we really claim we're listening if we already know how we’re going to answer?